“A rare gem in terms of solitude in the high plains and foothills of Northern Colorado.”
— Erik Schmude
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Red Mountain Open Space is closed to the public December 1 to March 1 due to winter weather and wildlife requirements.
Red Mountain Open Space offers a unique natural setting at the interface of the high plains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This run features washes, broad vistas, fascinating geologic and cultural history, and abundant wildlife! Bring your camera and binoculars; you never know what you might see at Red Mountain!
Need to Know
There is no fee and public restrooms are available at the trailhead.
Fairly mild terrain and good trail conditions make this an excellent trail run; however, the area is remote. Bring water, especially on warm summer days.
The run begins at the Red Mountain Open Space parking lot located approximately 25 miles north of Fort Collins. Head west from the parking lot along the Bent Rock Trail
. After entering the mouth of a small canyon, cross Sand Creek and immediately stay left (south) to continue on the Bent Rock Trail
. The trail skirts the south and then the west side of a hill for approximately 1.75 miles where it intersects the K-Lynn Cameron Trail
Turn left onto the trail that heads northwest and continue through a broad valley, across Ruby Wash, and then ascend through mahogany shrubland towards the summit of the hill. Take in the views of pine woodlands to the west and a broad vista of the Red Mountain Open Space and the Cheyenne Rim to the east and north.
From the summit, the trail descends rapidly via a short set of switchbacks and down into a cottonwood-lined canyon where the trail crosses a small creek and then enters into a grassland where a side trail explores prehistoric stone circles and two historic structures, including a hand-hewn log cabin and a sheepherders cabin.
After exploring the cultural sites, continue eastward across the Ruby Wash, and and then follow the Ruby Wash south towards the Bent Rock Loop, through valley grasslands. Part of this trail follows a two-track road southward. After approximately 0.75 miles, stay left and retrace a 0.3-mile long portion of the K-Lynn Cameron Trail
(this should look familiar) southeast and towards the Bent Rock Trail
At the Bent Rock Trail
junction (again, this should look familiar), turn left to complete the last half-mile section of the Bent Rock Trail
where you'll cross Sand Creek though a picturesque canyon comprising exposed rock layers and excellent examples of an anticline.
Flora & Fauna
Red Mountain offers a diversity of flora and fauna due to its position at the interface of the high plains and the Laramie foothills. Diverse native and introduced grasses and wildflowers occur throughout the area, with mahogany shrublands and small scatterings of pine trees along hill sides, ridgetops, and draws. Cottonwoods, willows, and other mesic plants thrive in canyon bottoms and along washes and streams.
Although the area is closed to the public in winter, there are excellent opportunities to view antelope, deer, and the occasional elk herd in the area. Coyotes and foxes inhabitant the area and a set of bincolulars will offer the chance to see a variety of migratory birds, raptors, and the occasional eagle. Watch for rattlesnakes!
History & Background
Red Mountain Open Space is rich in prehistoric and historic archeological sites including Native American finds such as stone circles, lithic and groundstone scatters, and camps. In more recent times, the area was used for ranching, with a number of historic structures, including a hand-hewn log cabin.